After Kolkata Knight Riders’ thrilling win against Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 2, the franchise posted a picture on its social media – Venkatesh Iyer, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shubmman Gill, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi celebrating in the dressing-room. Youth has formed the bedrock of KKR’s turnaround in the second phase of this year’s IPL.
Age – 26, Matches – 9, Runs – 320
The find of the season arguably, providing KKR with rollicking starts without fail. A breezy hitter of the cricket ball, with composure and brains to match, he has barely resembled a rookie. Spin or pace, yorker or googly, he could flay any ball beyond the boundary. His signing this year was a result of KKR’s thorough scouting in last season’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. According to a KKR functionary, it was head coach Brendon McCullum’s decision to include him in the playing eleven, as the IPL moved to UAE. What Iyer needed was assurance —something veteran coach Chandrakant Pandit offered him by making the southpaw open for Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, McCullum and Eoin Morgan assured that he wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder, resulting in Iyer playing fearless cricket and scoring some valuable runs in his nonchalant style. If the signs are to be trusted, it could be the start of a special alliance.
Age -22, Matches – 16, Runs – 427
A lot of eyebrows were raised when KKR forked out Rs 1.8 crore at the 2018 auction to snap up the youngster from Punjab. But they might have ended up signing the most talented young batsman in the country, the one to flag-bear the country’s batting heritage. KKR had brought him as Gautam Gambhir’s replacement—and he is proving to be one. In the words of franchise CEO Venky Mysore, they needed someone who could provide solidity and aggression at the top. The latter value he brought in tons, though consistency was not his forte. But once he was given a settled role, as opener, he grew on the job, became both reliable and aggressive. He still has self-destructive tendencies—Gill had been inconsistent at the start of the season, but the KKR management didn’t lose faith in him—but it seems only a matter of time before he becomes KKR’s batting spearhead.
Age – 30, Matches – 16, Runs – 395
The star man of the moment after doing a Javed Miandad in the playoff, Tripathi loves to hit sixes – he hit six sixes in an over on two occasions in local cricket – apart from solving maths puzzles. Steve Smith played a part in his development, promoting him up the order while captaining the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 before KKR signed him at the 2020 auction. There have been times when people have wondered about his role and utility, but no longer. The big brother in the pack, flexibility is Tripathi’s forte, his ability to bat in any position and adapting his game to the situation so vital to KKR this term. He could open or bat in the middle order, give thrust in power-play or provide the ballast at the death. He gives KKR tactical flexibility, and don’t forget the runs he could stop and the difficult catches he could pluck.
Age – 27, Matches – 16, Runs – 383
A destructive player of spin bowling and medium pace, Rana was scared of extreme pace. But despite knowing this vulnerability of Rana, KKR bought him in 2018. The franchise knew that it had someone in its set-up to provide the required course correction. Rana needed to be fearless and the KKR team motivator Mike Horn worked his magic. “When I was young, I used to get scared of pace. When I personally met him (Horn) and attended his lectures, I realised he was just not afraid of failures, He knows only how to gain (from them). I tried to absorb this quality from him,” Rana told kkr.in two years ago. Now, Rana is one of the team’s undroppables and has chimed in with some valuable knocks in the past couple of years. Given their spin-bowling riches, his off-spin has gone under-utilised, but he does have the knack of breaking partnerships.
Age – 22, Matches – 8, Wickets – 10
One of the brightest, and quickest, pacers in India, Mavi enjoyed his best season so far in his three years with KKR. Injuries had eaten up most of his last two years after he was snaffled for Rs 3 crore in 2018, but fit and furious, he delivered his promise this season, bowling with verve, hurrying batsmen with pace and bounce. He bowled with considerable discipline too—maintaining an economy rate of 7.13, a steady dip from 8.15 and 9.64 in the last couple of seasons. His average had plunged from 54 to 24 and now 20. He has added more strings to his bow, like a slower ball and off-cutter, besides enhanced sharpness. Despite his string of injuries, Mysore had said that the franchise was ready to play the waiting game and it wasn’t a misjudgement. Still teething in, he could be a genuine force in the future.
Age – 21, Match – 1, Wicket – 0
With the massive riches in their bowling department, he barely got a game this season. But he has age on his side to justify the price tag of Rs 3.2 crore he commanded in the 2018 auction. Like Mavi, he was crippled by injuries in his first two seasons, but has been slogging hard in the nets. There is a video on the KKR Insta, in which he’s shown almost breaking Dinesh Karthik’s toes with a fiendish yorker that has Karthik on the ground. He still has serious pace, from a whippy action, and with a bit more refining and grooming, he could evolve into a prolific bowler for both club and country. Eden Gardens’ seam-friendly pitches played a part in roping in two tearaway quicks and if normality returns next year, Nagarkoti and Mavi could be a difficult pair to handle on the home patch.